View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Thursday 31 May

A cloudier day than of late, but still with good spells of sunshine. Went to town for a few bits and pieces at 3pm, and was surprised to find the ferry still tied up. She normally leaves for Ullapool at 1.50pm, but in the end the MV Isle of Lewis did not go until 3.50pm. As a result, the boat did not come back in until 10pm, still 2 hours late. Called into the ferry terminal to look for bus timetables (none to be found) for mainland buslinks, but instead found the below memorial to merchant seamen from the Western Isles who were lost in both world wars. The memorial is new, having only been erected last September.

Transcription of the text:

This Memorial commemorates the loss of
Merchant Navy and Mercantile Personnel
from the Western Isles who gave their
lives in War and Conflict for the
freedom of others.

Eternal Father, Strong to Save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bid'st the mighty Ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Hymn 527 verse 1

Chlaodh iad ri Dia'nan teinn;
Is shaor e iad o'n trioblaid gheir
Ghrad-chuireadh leis an
stoirm gu feith,
's na tuinn 'nan tamh gu leir;

An sin tha iad ro-ait, airson
Gu bheil iad samhach beo:
S gun d'thug e iad do'n chaladh sin,
's do'n phort bu mhiannach leo

Psalm 107 verses 28-30
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning
we will remember them

This memorial was erected by the Western Isles Branch
of the Merchant Navy Association
on 3rd September 2011

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Another bloody water

I'm not apologising for the swear word in the title of this post. It is in fact the name of a brand of bottled water in Australia. I'll let the label, forwarded to me by an acquaintance in Queensland, speak for itself.

Wednesday 30 May

More sunny weather, but with a persistent northeasterly wind which once more keeps us cold. The mercury only reached 13C / 57F this afternoon. In the sun it's nice; but not so in the shade.

Next Monday, beacons will be lit across the United Kingdom in celebration of the Diamond Jubilee, Queen Elizabeth's 60th anniversary on the throne. No fewer than five will be lit on the Long Island. One at the Butt of Lewis, one at Cross-Skigersta Road nearby, two on the Arnish Peninsula across from my position and one on the summit of the Clisham. I hope the weather will be clement, as the Clisham is 799 metres or 2,621 feet high. The beacons will be lit between 22.00 and 22.30 hours. Oddly enough, no beacons are planned in the Isle of Skye, 50 miles south of here. The nearest beacon to that island will be at Ardnamurchan Point, 30 miles to its south.

The recent good weather has even made it to the local news headlines, as it has enticed people out to cut their peats. Last week's heatwave (26C / 80F in Harris) made it very uncomfortable at the peats, which is a strenuous physical exercise. You cut slabs of peat out of a peatbank with a peat iron (or tairsgeir), and leave them to dry for a couple of weeks, weather permitting.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Tuesday 29 May

A beautifully sunny day, but that strong cold northeasterly wind took the warmth out of it all. We did not manage more than 12C / 54F, but the wind made it feel even lower. Rather warmer, I gather, were the people in the US, where late May temperature records have tumbled. I gather that some places got as high as 36C, not far off 100F. I think I'll stick to the Hebrides; I find 12C easier to cope with than the mid-30s.

A few weeks ago, six children were killed in a house fire in the town of Derby. The fire was started deliberately, by pouring petrol through the letterbox and setting this alight. The parents, of whom the father had 18 children, have now been arrested on suspicion of their murder. The investigation in Derby is still on-going.

Italy has suffered another earthquake, measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale. Sixteen people are reported to have lost their lives. Seismologists expect the quakes to continue. Footage of a refugee camp at the time of today's quake showed people running away, out of their tents.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Monday 28 May

That was a startling contrast. From 23C yesterday right down to 13C today. The day started overcast, but by lunchtime we had the sun back. However, that did little to help the mercury, as there was this penetrating northeasterly wind blowing at force 6. And we are not likely to get any warmer anytime soon, as there will be a nationwide downturn in the warmth. Nonetheless, here in the Hebrides we are not really used to these large jumps in temperature - even if they take us back where we should be at this time in the year.

The woman who had contracted rabies after being bitten by a rabid dog in southern Asia has sadly died at a hospital in London. Only a few cases of imported rabies occur in the UK each year, but the survival rate of the disease is poor. Once symptoms become evident, the outlook is grim. Stringent controls on the import of mammals into Great Britain have eradicated rabies from the indigenous wildlife.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Sunday 27 May

Another warm day, with the mercury cresting at 22C. It has become rather more humid. By evening, a northeasterly wind has picked up, heralding quite a change for tomorrow, when we should have no more than 14C on the thermometer. This transition will prompt thunderstorms on the mainland. We normally only get thunderstorms in winter. I spent the day outside, sitting in the sun - yes, I did apply sunblock and was in t-shirt and trousers.

The first tropical storm to threaten the US mainland this season is headed for the border between Georgia and Florida. Beryl is a storm, carrying winds of force 10 to 11 on the Beaufort scale, and will be even stronger upon landfall, later this evening. After making landfall, Beryl will make an about turn and head northeast. I don't think the up to 12 inches of rainfall are unwelcome, as there have been drought conditions for many months in that part of the States.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Saturday 26 May

Beautiful spring day, with the mercury reaching summer-like values of 22C / 73F by 10am. Although it did cool down with the seabreeze later in the afternoon, it remained very pleasantly warm.

At 10 am, the runners in the Stornoway Half Marathon passed through the town and outlying areas. There were about 100 of them, I think. Click on the picture to see more images of the run.

In the afternoon, I went for a 5 mile walk out to Sandwick and Steinish, taking in the fringes of the Cockle Ebb. This is an area of tidal mudflats as well as quicksands. During specific times, it is possible to cross to Tong, a village that is 4 miles away by road - but far less than that directly.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Friday 25 May

Today in 1962, St Michael's Cathedral in Coventry was rededicated by Queen Elizabeth II. The cathedral had been wrecked during a Nazi German bombing raid on 14 November 1940, which caused extensive damage to the city. The ruins of the old cathedral were retained and are standing outside the new edifice, as a reminder of the destructiveness of war.

In Stornoway, it was a sunny day, but with a fair amount of haze about, and haar rolling ashore in Point, 5 miles east of the town. The cruiseliner Marco Polo came in during the early hours, and still lies anchored off Arnish Point. She is due to leave for Ullapool later tonight. Marco Polo is the second cruiseship to visit us this season; the Ocean Nova paid us three visits over the past fortnight or so.

I am making my way through The Healing Threads by Mary Beith, who died on 13th May. I have read half the book, which is a thoroughly researched appraisal of traditional medicine in Scotland. The second half is a rundown of what is termed Materia Medica, various healing practices in other words. I may conduct my own research into the subject.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Thursday 24 May

A brilliant day, if a tad cooler than yesterday. That's not the way it felt, but the official readings said 16C. Went out for a walk of 12 km, 7½ miles, through the Castle Grounds to Bennadrove, Loch Airigh na Lice and Horgaraid. From the latter remote corner, I went back through Newvalley, Guershader and Laxdale. Took me 2 hours and 45 minutes. I did this walk in my walking days, early in 2005, when it was a good deal colder. For this afternoon's walk, I did not take a coat or indeed a jumper.

A woman with rabies presented to A&E at her local hospital in northwest Kent twice before being transferred to a specialist hospital. The UK is rabies free and stringent controls are in place to prevent infected animals crossing the border. Those cases of rabies that do occur here result from bites from infected animals (e.g. dogs) abroad.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Wednesday 23 May

A very nice spring day, with the mercury topping out at 21C / 70F this afternoon at 2 o'clock. It was wall-to-wall, blue-sky sunshine, as there was a lot of high-level cloud about. However, that did not spoil the fun at all, and these high temps are quite unusual for this part of the world. The highest maximums I've seen here are 25C / 77F, and we just might get there in the next couple of days.

The Jubilympics are serving to push the news on the Euro off our screens, but I am learning from Dutch news media that governments in the EU are beginning to draw up contingencies to reinstate their own currencies, should the Euro fail. Once Germany withdraws from the Euro, that will be the end of the currency. Greece is on the point of withdrawing, and when that starts, others will follow.

I received a free CD today from the Gaelic college in Skye, containing Voices from Scottish Islands, as recorded by the School of Scottish Studies. If you're interested, you can request a free copy (if in the UK) by emailing dualchas [at], mentioning your name and address and subject Guthan Eileanan na h-Alba/Voices of Scotland's Islands CD.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Tuesday 22 May

Although we did not have much sun, the mercury rose to 18C / 64F, which was very nice. When we do get the sun (may take a couple of days), we should crest 20C, and that is not very common in this part of the world.

The Diamond Jubilee will be celebrated in the Western Isles in the first week of June. Beacons will be lit on 2 June at 10.15pm (sunset) at Arnish Point (right across the water from me), Eoropie Beach (Ness), the Clisham in Harris; Langass (North Uist) and Askernish (South Uist). HM Queen Elizabeth will light the final beacon in central London at 10.30pm that evening. 

In recent times, I've been writing about some of the cats my family have had over the years. As I don't have that much to write about in this post, I'll put a few images of them on here.

 (Stapper [Strider] 1988-2004)
Thomas (1973-1988)

Monday, 21 May 2012

Monday 21 May

Well, spring appears to be here at last. Although we saw little of the sun today, the mercury managed a creditable 15C / 59F this afternoon, and for the first time since that warm spell in March, I could do without a scarf on going out. The evening is very calm, with not a ripple on the water of the harbour, and the lights reflecting in the sea as darkness falls. It will not get completely dark until close on midnight. We are one month away from the summer solstice, and sunset time is around 10pm.

The northern hemisphere hurricane season has come to life, with three tropical cyclones around. Alberto is fading off the coast of the Carolinas in the Atlantic; a tropical depression is making threatening noises to the south of Acapulco, with a hurricane likely to hit Mexico later this week; and another tropical storm is just south of Guam in the western Pacific.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Sunday 20 May

An overcast and pretty non-descript day in terms of weather, although milder than of late - we managed 13C / 55F. Went out for an amble around town, trying to find nano-sized geocaches. Well, I failed abysmally, as I couldn't find a single one of them. I also felt embarassed standing around, looking around the foot of a statue, not really knowing what I was looking for. And there were three others. Anyway, I'll probably have to start by looking for a larger sized cache.

Italy was shaken by an earthquake measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale, which caused a lot of damage and destruction in the vicinity of Bologna. Six people were killed, two of them in a factory which collapsed. There was footage on TV, showing a clocktower just as another aftershock occurred: leaving the tower in a pile of rubble. A few years ago, 300 people were killed in a similar earthquake, and in 1976 an even stronger quake in northeastern Italy left nearly 1,000 dead. Italy straddles a faultline in the earth's crust, where tectonic plates grind along each other, leading to sudden movements. Another manifestation of this phenomenon are Italy's four active volcanoes: Stromboli, Etna, Vesuvius and Volcano - I visited all these in 2001. Having stood close to the summit of Etna, I was in the nearby town of Taormina that year when I saw a red, glowing line near the top of the mountain later that night. I later learned that the eruption which started then left all the places I had stood at under 500 feet of lava. None of them exist anymore.

An annular solar eclipse is to start in just over an hour's time (at 10pm GMT), which will be visible across the northern Pacific Ocean and North America. Although my sunset times are very late at the moment, the sun sets shortly, making it impossible for me to see it. Those in Iceland and the Arctic will be able to see it though.

Megrahi is dead

The sole person ever convicted of guilt in the bombing of PanAm flight 103 over Lockerbie in December 1988, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, has died at his home in Tripoli, Libya, earlier today. The historical facts of the Lockerbie bombings are well documented, and like everybody else alive at the time, the events that winter solstice day, 24 years ago, are etched on my memory. Was Megrahi the prime suspect, or just a scapegoat to hide the blushes of his alleged paymaster, Col Gadaffi? He is also dead, summarily executed in October last year. But it is unlikely that we'll ever really know the truth.

The more than 200 people who died when the plane was blown up continue to be mourned by their friends and family. Megrahi's conviction may have satisfied the lust for revenge in some, but others were not so sure. His early release, on compassionate grounds in August 2009, did not go down well in many quarters. His relative longevity, on the strength of a prostate cancer drug that isn't even available in Scotland (where he was incarcerated), served to embarrass the Scottish government and its Justice Secretary, Kenny Macaskill. However, I will close by echoing Mr Macaskill's assertion that Megrahi is now answering to a higher Authority. And whether Abdelbaset will rest in the garden of flowers and flowing streams, or in the fires of hell is beyond human knowledge. RIP to the victims of Lockerbie.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Saturday 19 May

A wee bit milder than of late, with the mercury tipping 12C in the afternoon. Weather is quite benign with good sunny spells and not much wind. Spent the day backing up pictures onto CD-ROMs. Since I got my new camera last year, the images are taking up rather more space on the disks. They are now spread over 67 CDs.

The search for the missing fishing boat has been called off. The vessel was found at the bottom of the English Channel, with liferafts still attached. The body of its skipper was found on the surface, the other two remain unaccounted for but are now presumed dead. My thoughts go out to the families and friends of those lost off Weymouth on Thursday.

The hurricane season made an early start in the Atlantic Ocean, with tropical storm Alberto spinning up some 120 miles southeast of Myrtle Beach, SC. The storm will do an about turn and will approach the coast of the Carolinas tomorrow. The storm is carrying winds of 40 knots, equivalent to force 9, near its centre. However, the radius of those high winds is not more than 45 miles at present. NHC carry advisories every 3 to 6 hours.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Missing presumed lost

Image courtesy BBC
This boat is the Purbeck Isle, a small fishing craft that hails from Weymouth in Dorset. She left port yesterday, and has not been seen or heard of since. A search has been going on for the last 24 hours, but wreckage was located on the seabed in a location where previously there was nothing. Tonight, the body of a man was retrieved from the sea - it is believed to be one of the crew. His two comrades remain missing, but the worst is feared.

Stornoway too is a small fishing port, and not immune from tragedies like this. My thoughts are with the family and friends of those missing or lost in the English Channel.

Friday 18 May

A reasonable day, with some good spells of sunshine. The day started with a little bird drama, when a gull with a broken wing turned up in the backyard. The SSPCA were called, but when they turned up the bird had disappeared. It most definitely could not fly, but it might have sneaked through the gap under the gate or the fence.

The Olympic flame has arrived in the UK, and over the next 70 days, it will be carried the length and breadth of the country. It will pass through Stornoway at 6.32 am on June 11th.

As I type this (9pm GMT), an Icelandair plane is circling 10 miles west of Keflavik airport in Iceland, dumping fuel and preparing for an emergency landing, because a wheel fell off upon take-off. shows the plane circling. Icelandic TV has a live, continuous feed from the airport; I don't understand Icelandic, but for a nation of 400,000, this is very big news. As it would be anywhere. The plane landed safely at 9.15pm local time there.


Thursday, 17 May 2012

Thursday 17 May

Another thoroughly un-springlike day. The mercury is stuck in the mid-40s Fahrenheit (that's 6-8C) with a strong northeasterly breeze. Although we did get a few spells of sunshine, that did little to ameliorate the pervading feeling of cold.

The Olympic Flame is due to arrive in Great Britain tomorrow and will then embark on an 8,000 mile procession throughout the country. It will pass through Stornoway at 6.32 am on June 11th (am I going to get up for that, dunno) before being flown to Aberdeen. The flame will have arrived from Kirkwall beforehand. I am going out of my way to avoid the Jubilympics phenomenon (aye, that's the Diamond Jubilee and London Olympics rolled into one word).

Having read about the communions in Nova Scotia last week, it was good to see that it's Gaelic Awareness week in that Canadian province. A website has been launched, entitled An Drochaid Eadarainn, the Bridge between us. Nova Scotia (New Scotland) is the area of Canada where many Gaelic speakers from the west of Scotland ended up as a result of the clearances, and it retains a strong Gaelic connection. (With thanks to Peter for highlighting).

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Wednesday 16 May

We started overcast, but just after lunch a steady rain began to fall. And is still falling. There is not much wind to speak of. Quite a contrast to two weeks ago (the time I took the current front pic on the blog), when there was bright sunshine and a steady northeasterly breeze. The temperature has, if anything, regressed to a most mediocre 6C / 43F, a value I associate with our mid-winter average. Not mid May. However, who am I to complain.

Spring is nonetheless here, with the trees and shrubs out in leaf and the birds on their nests. A couple of blackbirds are busy gathering food for two fledglings, larger than themselves, which just sit there and open their beaks for more and more worms. A few years ago, a couple of starlings were also trying to teach a hatchling to fly. It eventually did get airborne - in the beak of a seagull, which proceeded to make a lunch of the young starling. Ouch.

I have taken delivery of two new books (as shown on my Facebook feed), namely The Lewis Man by Peter May (a thriller set in the Isle of Lewis), and Healing Threads by Mary Beith. The latter is a compendium of Gaelic healing herbs, practices and customs. Mary died last weekend, and I bought the book in her memory. As I stated in the relevant post, I never met her in the flesh, but she was one of my more memorable Twitter contacts.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Tuesday 15 May

A cold day, with a few wintry showers. Is this the middle of May? It feels more like March, with the mercury stubbornly ducking double figures, we only managed +9 today. Nonetheless, I'm not going to complain, when I look to the Canaries and southern Spain. People are reported to be dying there in a 40C / 105F heatwave.

Went into town this afternoon, and was overtaken by a shower, which quickly turned into a painful hailshower. And the stones only got bigger as I reached the town centre. The streets were deserted, but the shop entrances were full of people, huddling to get out of the rain and the cold. Not long after, the shower cleared away to the south and the sun came back.

It was confirmed a few days ago that a major construction company in the northwest of Scotland, UBC, has gone bankrupt. 90 people in the Western Isles have lost their jobs, which is a huge number if you remember the total population in the islands, which is not far off 25,000. If a proportionately similar event took place in London, you'd be looking at 18,000 redundancies - at a stroke.

Monday 14 May

A vast improvement on yesterday, with plenty of sunshine, not much wind and slightly more elevated temperatures. We did have the odd shower, but nothing really to complain about.

The first tropical cyclone of the Eastern Pacific season has formed, a day ahead of the formal start of the season. Tropical storm Aletta is headed west, from a point 650 miles south of Mexico. The system will not see the end of the week, due to unfavourable atmospheric conditions ahead.

Spent the day looking up information for someone who is researching the second battalion Seaforth Highlanders, which lost 97 men on 25 April 1915 - including this person's ancestor. The battle of Neuve Chapelle claimed many an islander's life as well; if memory serves, about half a dozen.

We had another visit from the Ocean Nova cruiseship, which was in all day. I pictured her last Thursday. By 6pm, she headed off for the small island of Canna, about 100 miles south of here. Canna is a tiny community of about 15, where some years ago they eradicated all the rats. First though, they had to remove the Canna mice (a distinct species of mouse). Then the rat poison was brought in. The freight boat Spanish John II was carrying the big white drums out on deck when she was challenged by the USS Klakring, which was on exercises between Mallaig and Canna. The American warship did not receive or see the replies from the Spanish John II, so four torpedoes were fired at the freighter! Fortunately, they all missed. The rats were all killed off, and the mice were duly returned.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Sunday 13 May

Filthy weather today, with heavy rain and strong winds battering the islands. The ferry did go out at 2.30pm, but I do not envy its passengers their trip today. The wind readings at Stornoway airport were a sustained 30-35 mph, force 7, which is within the operational range of the Isle of Lewis. 

In my previous post, I referred to the death of one of my regional internet contacts. Like many others in these parts, I had missed the presence of this lady on the Twitter over the past year or so, an absence that will now be permanent. In my 8 years of internet interactions, starting with the infamous AOL chatrooms, later blogs and more recently on Facebook and Twitter, I have found it quite surprising that you establish a personal rapport with someone on the other end of a phoneline (i.e. internet connection), and can be genuinely sad or upset when something happens to them.

Today is Sunday, a day I keep as a quiet one. Not out of any religious conviction, but because over my years in Stornoway, I have come to appreciate the day that there are no vehicles flying up and down the road, the town centre is deserted all day and the only bus you see is the one taking the church goers to their place of worship - at 10.30 am and 6pm. Having read about the Cape Breton communions in the 19th century (a five day, open-air event involving hundreds of people at a time), I don't think we're as strict as some would make us out to be. Nonetheless, even in those strict times the minister would have to bellow across the field: "If Hamish Macdonald is done tickling Jean Macpherson, this service of God will proceed", at a young couple who found each other more interesting than the Day of the Question (Latha na Ceist).

A tribute

From across the Minch and through the medium of Twitter, news has reached me of the death of Mary Beith at her home in Sutherland. Although I never met Mary in the flesh, I was in touch with her through Twitter, where she operated as @igrannie. Her last posting there was on 26 August last year, and I gather that her health started to deteriorate earlier through last year.

Mary is better known in the North West Highlands through her writings on the subject of Gaelic medicine in the West Highland Free Press and has also published books.

I would like to dedicate this post to Mary’s memory, and convey my condolences to her family and friends.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Saturday 12 May

A fairly bright day with occasional rain showers, but with strengthening winds. We are due a force 8-9 gale tomorrow, with gusts to 60 mph in exposed places. Stornoway being relatively sheltered should see no more than 50 mph, which is still stormforce. Fairly unusual to have strong winds like this in May, but it does happen. We were quite a bit milder today than of late, with the mercury at a decent 14C / 57F.

I was left bemused after an exchange at the Leveson Inquiry into press standards, when Rebekah Brooks, former CEO at News International, disclosed that British Prime Minister David Cameron signed off his texts with the letters LOL, not knowing that the acronym stands for Laughing Out Loud. I've known that for 8 years, and I'm only a few years older than Mr Cameron.What is politics in this country coming to?

Back in 1982, fifteen people were killed in the South American republic of Surinam, a former Dutch colony, when army chief Desi Bouterse seized power in a coup. The exact circumstances of the killings have never been cleared up, and continue to be a festering sore in the little country, pop 490,000. Another attempt at justice is reported to have been run into the ground in Paramaribo, the capital. Following independence in 1975, many Surinamers went to Holland, where they remain a sizeable ethnic minority.

The Northern Hemisphere hurricane season is slowly kicking off, with disturbances in the Atlantic Ocean (southwest of the Azores) and the Eastern Pacific Ocean (south of Acapulco), both estimated to have a 40% chance of developing into a tropical storm. I'm monitoring developments closely, reflecting output from the NHC on my Tropical Cyclones blog.

Friday 11 May

Quite a nice day, with plenty of sunshine but with a keen wind and low temperatures for mid May. Nonetheless, I'm not complaining. I will be complaining on here on Sunday, when we get a gale with winds gusting to 60 mph. A high pressure system with a central pressure of 1044 mbar will pass over on Saturday, but the 50 mbar gradient with the low over Iceland on Sunday will bring us those high winds.

Rangers FC, which is in severe financial difficulties, is seeing one salvation after another slipping away. It is suggested that once the club has been saved, it could be relegated to the 3rd division. We shall see.
It was rather worse news that greeted the Highlands and Islands today, with the immediate cessation of operations of a building firm, leading to the loss of 238 jobs. You may think that's no big deal, but 90 jobs lost in the Western Isles is nothing short of catastrophic. This equates to 5,000 job losses at a stroke in London.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Thursday 10 May

A fairly bright day, although a veil of cloud slowly moves over from the south - we are just about on the right side of a weatherfront. The downside is the low temperature; only 9C / 48F. In southern England, the mercury has peaked at 20C / 68F, quite a sharp contrast. Summer is on its way, as we have just welcomed the first cruiseliner of the season. The Ocean Nova, a small ship on its first visit here (in my spell here) left for the Shiants at lunchtime. The Shiants lie about 20 miles south of Stornoway.

At noon, a helicopter, carrying oil workers, has ditched into the North Sea some 25 miles east of Aberdeen. All aboard managed to get into a liferafts and have since been transferred to hospital for a check-up. The cause for the ditching appears to have been mechanical, as an oil warning light came on. A few years ago, a helicopter crashed into the North Sea off Peterhead from an altitude of 2,200 feet, killing all 16 on board.

The world's oldest blogger, Ray White passed away in hospital in the USA on Wednesday, aged 98. Ray, better known as Dad, blogged on Dad's Tomato Garden Journal since late August 2003. He was among the first to embrace AOL Journals, but transferred to Blogger in October 2008. Ray is mourned by his family and friends, both on and off the Internet.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Srebrenica - 17 years on

In two months' time, it will be 17 years since the UN-protected area of Srebrenica in Bosnia was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces, led by General Ratko Mladic. The hopelessly outgunned Dutch battalion acquiesced to the demands by the Bosnian Serbs, and helped them to separate the Bosnian Moslim men and boys. Seven thousand of them were taken to a nearby forest, and summarily executed.

The three officers in charge of Dutchbat, headed by retired Col Karremans, now face legal proceedings on a possible charge of genocide. Karremans and his subordinates were aware of the fact that the lives of Moslims were in danger, yet proceeded to evict them from the Dutchbat compound. A number of them had worked for Dutchbat, but found their deaths at the hands of Mladic. The eviction, in the minds of survivors and relatives of those killed, amounts to complicity.

Dutch broadcaster NOS reports that a special advisory chamber in the Dutch judiciary has ruled that these proceedings can be filed.Whether they will is a decision of the public prosecutor.

Wednesday 9 May

Quite a nice, bright day after a night of rain. It wasn't warm, with the mercury at 11C / 52F. However, it was possible to sit outside, in the sun and out of the wind, reading my book.

Local news website Hebrides News is a valuable asset for keeping up to date with local news. Today, it contained a few errors. The word "negligible" was mangled into "ineligible", and the number of years that Queen Elizabeth on the throne, for which she is now celebrating her Diamond Jubilee, was put at 50. The latter mistake came in a report about a jubilee streetparty in Laxdale, just outside Stornoway.

The anagrammatical slip (negligible vs ineligible) was in a report about excessive transmission charges for electricity generated by renewable energy schemes in the Highlands and Islands. It is a two-edged sword, as far as I am concerned; it may put the tin hat on windfarms, but could also stifle sea-based schemes, such as wave- or tidal-power schemes.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Tuesday 8 May

Overcast and latterly very wet. Not much wind and the rainclouds are taking their time moving southwest. I can see brightness away east, but it's chucking it down in Stornoway.

I just read that all air ambulances (pictured above at Stornoway on 24 June 2006) have been grounded after a potential fault in the rotorblades was discovered. Although the Civil Aviation Authority has not ordered the grounding, the manufacturer of the helicopters has voluntarily taken the decision. The work of the choppers will be taken over by Coastguard helicopters and normal aeroplanes. The air ambulances are normally very busy around Scotland, recovering victims of road traffic accidents and many other incidents. The Coastguard helicopters tend to be busy around coasts and hills.

Next Tuesday, 15th May, will see the commencement of the Eastern Pacific hurricane season. Storms commonly affect the western coastline of Mexico, from Baja California and further east towards El Salvador. In recent years, quite a few high-category hurricanes have occurred in the basin, which stretches all the way to the 140th degree longitude west. Landfalls in Mexico tend to cause problems with flooding, land- and mudslides. The North Atlantic season commences on 1st June. At present, the first tropical wave of the season is yet to appear, although activity near the west African coast seems to suggest we're not far off that occurrence.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Hurricane update - 7 May

After the fuss I made over the tropical cyclone in Indonesia, it did form, east of Timor; only to collapse within 12 hours. It could yet make a come-back, but am not holding my breath. System 19S did not even make it to named status. Oh well, the Northern Hemisphere season starts next week.

Monday 7 May

I was profoundly saddened to hear of the death by suicide of the GP for the Small Isles, Dr Rachel Weldon. She was based in the Isle of Eigg, but also provided medical cover for the neighbouring islands of Muck, Rum and Canna. Total population of the four islands is about 170; the archipelago is situated some 15 miles southwest of Mallaig, to the south of the Isle of Skye.

The media are reporting that the GP had been convicted of a drink-driving offence at Fort William earlier this year, which had carried a sentence of a fine and a driving ban. Although the news reports carry the two events in the one headline, a causal link cannot and should not be assumed, unless proven otherwise. I know the Small Isles quite well, and realise that the loss of the GP in such tragic circumstances will come as a body blow. I briefly met Dr Weldon on one of my last visits to the island, back in 2004. 

The communities of the Small Isles as well as Dr Weldon's family and friends are in my thoughts today.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Sunday 6 May

The day here has been quite remarkable. Starting with the supermoon before sunrise, then a snow shower at 7.30 am, followed by several beafy hail showers later on in the day. The weather was very un-May like, with an overnight low of -1C / 30F.

Snow shower

The French have elected a new president, Francois Hollande, who beat Nicholas Sarkozy by a margin of 4%. After making an acceptance speech in his hometown of Tulle, Hollande has now left for Paris.With the emerging election results in Greece (appearing to be opposed to the EU bail-out plan), the European Union appears to be starting the week with a colossal headache.

A tropical cyclone looks likely to be forming in the waters of southern Indonesia, a very unusual occurrence, as I pointed out yesterday. Bakung (Daffodil) will head southwest towards the islands west of Timor over the next few days.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Hurricane update - 5 May

This is usually a quiet time on the tropical cyclone front, but something is brewing in Indonesia. Tropical disturbance 94S is located near 4.5S 126.2E, to the east of the Indonesian island of Celebes (see map below), and looks set to become a rare phenomenon: a late season cyclone, and in Indonesia.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center is monitoring this system as it slowly gathers strength from the warm waters of the Banda Sea (the red marker "A" on the map); water temperatures are more than 30C / 86F out there. The Indonesian weather service will be issuing regional warnings, once 94S is declared a tropical cyclone. This is likely to happen in the early hours of Monday. The storm will be named Bakung, Indonesian for Daffodil. As per usual, JTWC will also issue warnings.

View Larger Map

Saturday 5 May

As I type this, a fairly bright afternoon has deteriorated with sleet, hail and rain showers rattling through. It remains cold, although not as penetrating as yesterday. Went out for an amble through town before the showers commenced, but there was not much doing - although I did not go into the town's centre.

I am pleased that mainland football team Ross County have completed their season with 24 matches unbeaten. They finished their last game of the season with a 5-3 victory over Dumfries side Queen of the South - who will be relegated from the First to the Second Division next season. Ross County have already been promoted to the Scottish Premier League.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Friday 4 May

A bitterly cold day, with a steady northerly breeze. There were a few showers, some with hail, sleet and snow. Although it is May 4th, the mercury did not do any better than 6C / 43F. And it felt like it. The occasional sunny spell did nothing for the raw feeling.

The results from local elections came in through the afternoon, and there were quite a few changes in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the Western Isles Council. The turn-out here was among the highest in the country, with up to 61% in Point, the Eye peninsula east of Stornoway. The turn-out for other elections was down to 24% in places.

I was pleased to hear that a community buy-out is to be considered for South Harris, which includes Berneray and other islands in the Sound of Harris. The estate was sold off in 1925, among other possessions of the late proprietor, Lord Leverhulme. If the buy-out bid succeeds, the whole of Harris will be in community ownership. The movement towards community ownership was started by the people of Assynt (north of Ullapool) in 1992, followed in 1997 by the islanders of Eigg. It has allowed them to determine their own future, rather than being stifled by the whims of an absentee landowner. Community buy-outs are the result of legislation, enacted in 1886, which afforded security of tenure to crofters in the Highlands and Islands.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Thursday 3 May

Today saw a change in the weather, in that we lost the sun. There were a few spells of light rain in late afternoon and early evening and a steady north wind. Spent most of the afternoon uploading the 156 pictures I took yesterday, and putting them on the preceding blogpost. By early evening, my eye caught two craft approaching port at high speed, and one of them looked like our lifeboat. The other looked like the new lifeboat that is being based at Leverburgh, South Harris. I hurried out to Goat Island, in time to see the two lifeboats coming into the harbour. The Lifetime Care was welcomed into its homeport, Leverburgh, yesterday.

Picture post - 2 May

All 156 pictures of the trip can be seen here
Cliasmol School (now closed)

Eastern entrance to Amhuinnsuidhe Castle
Loch Leosavay

Amhuinnsuidhe Castle

Abandoned homesteads on Scarp
Sheep and lambs at Huishinish
Sound of Harris in the distance
Taransay and Sodaigh
Glen Miavaig
Cows near Miavaig
West coast of Harris
B887 near Bunamhainneadar
Former whaling station at Bunamhainneadar